“Learn as if you were to live forever”

When successful people are asked about what it takes to make it to the top in their particular field there is one thing that they all focus on. That thing is ‘Hard work’. Be it in sports, culture or academic pursuits, working hard, and with that perseverance seem to be key.

Very few people will be the best in the world at what they do. We cannot measure the success of a person solely because they have reached the ‘top’ of their field. So how could we measure success? As a measure of the success of its students Darfield High School can look to its mission statement. This sets a target of a leaver being a citizen who has developed the skills, knowledge, wisdom, not just get a job but be valuable part of our society, but to contribute and participate.

I recently heard this goal expressed in a very practical way. This person said we have been successful in our mission to educate our students if the leavers meet the following three criteria: if they are a person who you would want to have as a work colleague; if they are a person you would want as a neighbour and if they a person you would be happy to marry into your family. Work, community and family – wide measures of educational success.

Another common factor that successful people attribute their success to is passion. Passion for what they do. They do it because they enjoy it. They look forward to coming to work every day. A challenge in this however is to find out what our passion is. Do we have one? Should I be worried if I don’t?

Michael Fullan, a Canadian education academic said:

“If you are not sure about what you have a passion for you should continue to build your skills and you will find your passion”

It is OK to not know yet what your passion is. Keep working hard anyway. Keep learning. Through this learning you will find a spark that sets you off on an exciting new path. Keep learning because you will discover new things and your passions may change.

Mahatma Ghandi is quoted as saying the following (although I think it is an expression of a much older Buddhist philosophy):

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever”

The first part of this quote “Live as if you were to die tomorrow” is about taking your opportunities, like “Carpe diem” – seize the day.

However when this idea is taken to the extreme is that it can easily drift into ideas of living for the moment, not worrying about tomorrow, being totally spontaneous. The problem with this is that to be totally spontaneous means no planning for the future or not thinking about consequences.  This seems a very self-centred way to live a life.

This is why I like how the second part of the quote brings it all together “Learn as if you were to live forever”. This is the idea of lifelong learning. If you keep learning you will find your passion.

One of the privileges of being a principal and a teacher, is that we get the chance to ‘make a difference’ to individuals, to families, to society. Sometimes, in all of the rushing around we do, we lose sight of what a profoundly worthwhile and satisfying feature of our work this is. We get to witness the growth, and energy and blossoming of talents as students take their path into adulthood. We get to contribute to this and to share in this. We get to help passions develop. We get to support students in discovering what they are passionate about.